In France, the Country of Bread, Going Gluten-Free is Totally Doable

Image via France Diplomatie / Flickr

France is famous for its breads, like crusty baguettes, flaky croissants, and rich pain au chocolat. The best! But what if you live a gluten-free life? Can you still visit la belle France?

Bien sûr! France has plenty of gluten-free (GF) options, whether you are dining out or cooking in. Here are some pointers to get you started.

Dining Out

Unless you parlez français, try to find a restaurant where someone speaks English—it just makes things easier. Look for a place with a small menu, which means the food is freshly prepared and the server can ask the chef questions or request a special preparation for you. A large menu, by contrast, means a lot of prepackaged foods where no one knows for sure what’s in them.

All restaurants in France are required to identify the presence of 14 allergens, including gluten, for every dish on their menu. A list may be posted on the wall, available as a separate menu, or provided some other way. Ask your server for the list to find your GF options.

Macarons are delicious and usually GF
Macarons are delicious and usually GF

It is also a good idea to have a GF Card to explain your gluten intolerance en français. You can find a free French version here, and a more-detailed, paid French version here.

Cooking In

One of the best things about France is its open-air markets. You can shop for scrumptious fruits, vegetables, cheeses, olives, and everything else you need to cook GF on your own. There is very little processed food so the risk of hidden gluten is low. And if you have a question about how something was prepared, like what’s in the pâté; the person selling it probably also made it so just ask!

Supermarkets in France, especially the big chains like Carrefour and Intermarché, almost always have special sections of GF foods. Look for the aisle marked Sans Gluten. The Paris supermarket Un Monde Vegan is (you guessed it) a great choice for vegan and GF options. Another good choice is a bio (organic) food store—you can find them everywhere in France. La Vie Claire and Naturalia are two well-known chains.

Certified GF products in France are marked with the symbol below. Those that have it can be eaten with confidence.

GF Symbol France 2

As in the US, carefully read the label of any packaged food to look for hidden gluten. Beware of maltodextrin (“maltodextrine” in French), which is usually GF in the US because it is corn-based. In Europe, maltodextrine is wheat-based and unsafe.

The Only Gluten-Free Michelin-Starred Restaurant

Totally-GF restaurants are starting to pop up in France, but there’s only one that has earned a coveted Michelin star: l’Auberge la Fenière. If you are visiting Provence and want a delicious meal and top service, don’t miss it!

GF dessert at Fenière
GF dessert at Fenière

When in Doubt, Bring the Wine & Cheese Out

When you’re feeling down missing out on crêpes, remember—French wines and cheeses are naturally GF! Bon appetit!

Here’s more info on GF dining in France and GF dining in Paris, and here’s a helpful podcast on GF living in France.